Time: 7:30 PM
TV: CBC, RDS2, NBCSN, Fox Sports West
Enemy reading: Fear the Fin
Sharks (projected) lineup:
Kings (projected) lineup:
Injured: n/a; Scratched:
- There isn't a lot to say here that we haven't covered in our playoff preview series. If you haven't had a chance to check out the playoff preview series, you can find all the coverage here. The guys broke down the underlying numbers, line matching, special teams, and goaltending, and also offered up some predictions. I did not help with any of this analysis, and instead copy-and-pasted some insight from Fear the Fin. I'm basically the Vanna White of this outfit.
- The big news for the Kings is, of course, that star defenceman Drew Doughty will be back in action tonight, setting the defensive pairings back to what they were for most of the season. There are, I'm sure, still quibbles about playing Robyn Regehr over Matt Greene, but I'm satisfied that the Kings are comfortable with this configuration, and that it can get the job done against the Sharks. Do you think there are any Western Conference goaltenders who don't see Drew Doughty in their nightmares? I'm guessing no.
- The forward lines are a bit more problematic, I think. Jordan Nolan and Kyle Clifford playing over Tanner Pearson and Linden Vey is a clear mistake. Both Nolan and Clifford have had their moments this season, but Pearson and Vey have proven to be more effective in their time on ice. I assume Darryl Sutter is going for playoff experience and "veteran presence" in his lineup, but I would prefer that he go for "guys who are better at playing hockey".
- Reuniting Mike Richards and Jeff Carter is probably a mistake as well. Both Joe Thornton and Logan Couture are going to run roughshod over Richards, who is at this point significantly less effective at centre than Carter is. The second line is going to be less effective offensively without Tyler Toffoli, whatever chemistry there was between King-Stoll-Brown (and I think there was definitely some) is lost, and the fourth line without Richards is pretty bad. (Relatively speaking, I mean. This is still the Kings, not the Sabres or whatever.)
- That being said, the Sharks practice lines indicate that Todd McLellan is similarly not deploying his forwards optimally, so he isn't exactly out-strategizing Darryl Sutter yet. As has been a theme in our playoff preview coverage, I still think the Kings are set up to prevail at even strength, as they have throughout the season, and particularly in the post-Gaborik era.
- The key tonight, as it will likely be all series, is for the Kings to maintain discipline and stay out of the penalty box. Allowing the Sharks' strong power play any significant time against the Kings' relatively average penalty kill will go a long way towards negating any even-strength edge that the Kings have, and the Kings' power play isn't good enough to make up for it. (Again, caveat, obviously the power play has looked a bit different with the addition of Marian Gaborik - but it's a small sample size and difficult to extract useful conclusions.) (Marian Gaborik is pretty great, though.)
- ~Fun With Numbers~ from Extra Skater.
- Prediction: Kings win the game like they'll win the series, 4-0.